A Colorado man has fought mostly unsuccessfully to get his concerns heard since his wife’s Prius car accident in 2006.
Before his wife’s Prius suddenly accelerated uncontrollably to 90 miles per hour on a mountain highway, you’d have been hard-pressed to find a bigger fan of Toyota than Ted James.
A middle-school science teacher and ardent environmentalist, James got a Prius for his wife, Elizabeth, and a Corolla for himself.
“I just thought Toyota was the coolest corporation on the planet,” he said.
That lasted until August 2006, when Elizabeth James was involved in an accident in her Prius on a Colorado interstate.
Now Ted James, 52, is part of a loosely knit circle of Toyota critics who feel a measure of vindication as federal regulators and congressional investigators home in on the company’s actions in the wake of massive recalls.
For years, the Toyota critics have shared — largely among themselves — their crash stories, news clips and frustrations at trying to prod the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to crack down on the carmaker.
Toyota has issued 10 million recalls in recent months, including about 2 million vehicles subject to more than one recall. But that does not mollify James and others who believe there is a problem in every vehicle Toyota has made since it began using an electronic throttle control in 2002.
The James family already owned a 2000 Toyota Sienna mini-van. When they needed new cars in late 2005, they bought the Prius and Corolla. Elizabeth was driving to Denver in 2006 on Interstate 70, which winds through the Rockies, when her Prius accelerated.
She slammed on the brakes, she said, but the car did not slow. Dodging vehicles on the increasingly congested freeway, she barreled down an offramp and blew through a small town, then veered off the road to avoid pedestrians, tearing through a forest before crashing into a creek.
Elizabeth suffered back and intestinal injuries but was not critically hurt, though her husband says she is still too traumatized to discuss the crash.
The Jameses asked the dealer where they bought their cars to warn Toyota about the problem, fearing others could get hurt. When they got no response, Ted James asked an attorney friend to write the company and urge it investigate the crash to find out whether a systemic defect was to blame.
The family never sued. James said that, other than unsuccessfully asking Toyota with help in covering Elizabeth’s medical bills, they weren’t interested in money.
But Toyota, after inspecting the car, wrote that it did not see major problems other than brakes that were completely worn away. The car had only 14,000 miles on it, and James contended the brakes were probably worn out by his wife futilely slamming on them during her wild ride.
He also got little satisfaction from NHTSA, which did not provide James with a written report of its investigation. He said agency investigators told him in a conference call that the problem could have been caused by the gas pedal sticking to floor mats, or an electronic issue, and left it there.
So James took to the Internet. An obsessive documenter, he videotaped an inspection of the demolished car and the route of his wife’s ride — including tree branches nearly 10 feet off the ground that were shattered as her car hurtled into the forest below the road.
He posted the videos on YouTube. He linked to a news report of a similar accident in Tacoma, Wash. He wrote blistering letters to Toyota.
Then in August 2009 a family of four was killed when their Lexus sped out of control through San Diego. Reporters spotted James’ videos on YouTube and contacted him. Horrified to find people had died, James redoubled his efforts.
Though Toyota has begun recalling vehicles and Congress has gotten involved since the San Diego crash, James worries it is still too slow.
“In the next month,” he predicted darkly, “we’re going to hear about someone else dying.”
If you or a family member has been personally injured because of the fault of someone else: by the use of dangerous and defective drugs, defective cars, bad products, or toxic injury etc then please contact the Dallas Texas Defective Toyota Car Product Liability Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 888-210-9693 or Contact Me Online.
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